By Connie Lorenz / Published March 2023
There is a level of degradation of a community’s asphalt where I tell a client that it’s a waste of money to repair their roadways and parking areas, and it is time to begin to budget for a new overlay. Rarely will I tell this to a client at the last minute; I usually try to provide the association with a five-year projection or “game plan” on how to achieve their community’s goals.
If your community is one of those that likes to go out for a bid every year to update the association’s budget, then you may be having some sticker shock when you receive the cost of the update or new proposal. I know I am! As an asphalt consultant who covers the entire state for overseeing milling and paving projects, it is my job to know what prices are per process per square yard (SY) per area. What I cannot get paid for is how to project the constant rising prices of something that was only $8.00 per SY a year ago and is now $14.00 per SY! Talk about a reality check!
I thought it was just the asphalt industry until I went to my local produce market. My office is right down the street from a wholesale produce company that I used to sell products to in my former life, doing pre-cut vegetables, and they have blessed our industrial complex with a small, quaint produce market. Since I spent 42 weeks in hotels in 2022, I don’t cook a lot, but my quest on getting healthy directed me to purchase some of their pre-cut cantaloupe and watermelon. I was approaching the convenience aisle and had to pass by the pallet of seedless watermelons. I stopped and stared when I saw that they were $12.99 each and about the size of a large honeydew! What? These had been about $5.99 the previous season off the side of the road from the back of a pick-up truck!
Triple the price of a watermelon is nothing, considering it’s a luxury item in life and not a lifesaving or altering commodity like a roadway. There is a choice whether or not to spend hard-earned money on an overpriced watermelon, but a community—or more directly, the board of directors—has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain a community and ensure their reserves and budgets accommodate for any expenses the community may incur. These include annual expenses like landscaping, planned expenses like surface treatments or replacement for your pavement, or the extreme and unplanned emergencies such as hurricane damage or a collapsed underground infrastructure. What do you do then, especially if the community was not financially ready for the impact?
Well, I believe you go back to the basics! Many have had to tap into their savings; all of a sudden, generic products are up for consideration. The new vehicle some of us usually get every two years looks like it will be every five years. That vacation just isn’t happening this year. But what does a community do when they find that their delay in making a decision on replacing their roadways went from a possibility to a necessity, especially after our 2022 hurricane season? There wasn’t much of Florida that wasn’t impacted in some capacity by the storms and hurricanes we saw this past year.
Several communities have asked if they could delay the replacement of their roadways, not because they weren’t planning on doing them but because they are finding that their budgets aren’t going as far as they anticipated. Their delayed plans are going to cost them double, if not triple, what they had projected. Again, go back to the basics.
With asphalt, repairs can continue to be made and sections of repairs can be carried out as long as there is a good sub-base and the community isn’t overly concerned with the aesthetic appeal. Typically, having road patches in high-end communities looks shabby and undesirable, but with pricing so high right now, it is becoming a common question to know how much time a community can buy before they MUST replace their roadways. Since Florida’s housing market is finally starting to level off, most of the communities I have met with are telling me IF they even have a home up for sale, it’s being sold before the realtor gets the sign up.
When it comes to repairs, I always recommend that a community stay on top of them, especially if the areas of defect are open and allowing water intrusion. Additionally, if the defect is in an area that would affect the safe travel of any pedestrians, it needs to be addressed immediately. Outside of that, if it is not failing right now, wait!
Fix your potholes at a level that is cost effective for the community, knowing that whatever money you are spending to correct these defects will be ripped out when it comes time to mill and pave. So, yes, the board will be throwing good money away, but how much will they save by waiting for the asphalt industry pricing to level out a bit?
When it comes to applying a surface treatment to the community pavement, I always ask a community why the board wants to start a program and what direction it is looking in. If the community has untreated asphalt, I only recommend the use of an asphalt rejuvenator, and not just any kind. Remember, I believe in the right product at the right place and right time. I will only offer you a product that your community needs. There are some contractors who would sell you their mother if they thought your community was buying. Be aware of the differences between the products and why you are applying them. A play on words can have your community stuck with an asphalt maintenance program you don’t want to be in!
Some products actually accelerate the degradation of your pavement and should be avoided once an asphalt cap reaches a certain age or level of deterioration. Great contractors will tell you the truth and help direct a community in a manner that will get the most bang for their buck. A contractor that might not have a community’s best interest at heart might not be so honest and will sell the community a product that will disappear within months!
One community I have worked with for a couple of years used a program that I am a huge fan of when used in the right place. Applying this product to old, alligatored asphalt with poorly installed crackfill is not the right place. The community barely got six years out of the process, and after educating them on reflective cracking, when to use crackfill, and why this particular surface wasn’t working for them, I was positive I had them on board to mill out their existing roadways and start over. Needless to say, I about fell over when they notified me that they were going with the same process as before, and thanks for my help! What had happened, you might ask? The board of directors changed, the new board failed to reach out to the old board, and before I was contacted, the current board had accepted a proposal that used the same process that was currently failing due to the overpromising of what the process could actually accomplish!
With pricing all over the place, fill your potholes, apply a true asphalt rejuvenator to your roadways if you have untreated asphalt, and sealcoat if you must. There is hope that pricing will come down over the next couple of years, and communities will have a chance to budget accordingly. I was told once that the most cost-effective vehicle you will ever own is the one sitting in your driveway. In better times, I disagreed with this statement as new vehicles had less problems, and a car payment was a car payment. In today’s world, I now believe it; and yes, the most cost-effective pavement is the one currently down in your community. Educating your board on what is the best way to move forward with their pavement will take an expert’s advice and direction. Let me know how we can help!
Owner, Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems Inc. (AR Tech)
Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems Inc. (AR Tech) is led by Connie Lorenz, also known as the “Asphaltchick,” and provides education and consultation services on proper asphalt maintenance. As a multi-year recipient of the Florida Readers’ Choice Award and Pulse of the City Awards, and one of the Top 50 Asphalt Contractors in the country four years and running through Pavement Maintenance and Reconstruction Magazine, we are the team to turn to! We provide a no-cost, detailed evaluation, property specific, with our proposals and offer board presentations to explain the different options available for pavement maintenance today. For more information on Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems, call 800-254-4732 or visit www.asphaltnews.com.